Seismic tests precede oil and gas drilling

June 24, 2014

MARIETTA, Ohio - An oil and gas exploration company in July could begin seismic testing in Fearing Township, officials said.

Protege III Energy of Tulsa, Okla., in the process to begin the seismic mapping and held a meeting at the community building in Fearing Township this month.

Protege was "very forthcoming," Washington County Commissioner David White said. "They said (the company and landowners) were all in partnership and they wanted landowners to know (what would be happening)."

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Morris Hall, vice president of Protege Energy and vice president of Geosciences, said work will start in early July.

"(Residents will) see plainly marked survey crews," he said. "It'll be a six-week effort when we start. If we start the first of July, it'll be the middle to end of August before we're done."

The method of seismic testing is called an acoustic pulse, Hall said.

The testing would not create issues like the city of Marietta saw in July 2012, where vibrations were felt from some distance away from the "vibraseis" trucks, he said. Instead of large trucks that thump the ground with large metal disks, the method Protege is using requires putting a small charge in the ground.

"We'll drill a very shallow hole and put a small explosive in the hole and record the sound waves the explosive makes," Hall said. "It allows us to properly locate (where to put) wells and have few issues while drilling."

Hall said the comparisons between the charge and vibraseis trucks are small.

"It's hard to believe but when we put that small charge (in the ground), there's not any impact on the surface," he said. "That's one reason we went away from the vibrating trucks and weight drop; it's 20 feet below the surface."

Hall said the company is trying to minimize any potential problems.

"We're trying to avoid problems by one, staying away from structures and two, using a method that puts the vibrations 20 feet underground," he said. "Anytime you talk about a charge, people get concerned, and rightfully so. Other methods risk more (surface) damage. We're not acquiring data in the city so this is the best place to do this method."

The charges will be set off 500 feet from residences and 350 feet from structures like water wells, he said. From 2 to 3 pounds of explosives will be used.

Permits are being obtained to begin testing.

What residents can expect to see are cables with orange stakes put into the ground. "Geophones" will record the vibrations and will help Protege determine where fault lines are so they can avoid them while drilling a horizontal well.

Most of the residents at the meeting approved of the seismic testing.

"We've already received about 50 percent of landowner approval for permitting at the meeting," Hall said.

Residents with questions or issues can contact any survey crew they see or a Protege representative who will be in the area when the seismic activity starts, Hall said. Residents can also contact Hall.

The bulk of the work will be around Caywood and to the south and east.

"The hospitality and graciousness of the Caywood community, it's much appreciated," said Hall. "I've been doing this for 34 years and haven't come across a nicer group of folks."

The appearance of the land will not change after the testing, he said.

"We're going to leave (the land) like we found it," said Hall.

Meanwhile, similar seismic testing is delayed in other parts of the county.

Beverly Councilman Jay Arnold said council's April resolution to allow seismic testing in the city is still on hold until the council can hear the reworded resolution, as City Solicitor Tom Webster suggested.

"I remember a few years ago, when the testing went on in Marietta, (and problems that came with that)," Arnold said. "If anything went wrong with the company performing seismic testing (in Beverly), we wanted to make sure they have insurance to take care of any damage. We want to make sure we're protected."

The final resolution has yet to go before the council, Arnold said.



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